Explosive New Brunswick Protest Likely To Charge International Anti-Fracking Actions

Image of the Mi'kmaq blockade standoff shared via Twitter yesterday.
Image of the Mi’kmaq blockade standoff shared via Twitter yesterday.

For months, indigenous groups and their allies have been peacefully protesting plans by Houston-based Southwestern Energy to use seismic trucks to hunt for potential fracking sites in New Brunswick, Canada, northeast of Maine. For nearly three weeks a blockade has kept the company trucks from operating.

Earlier this week, Bryan Parras of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS) delivered a letter from the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society to the company’s headquarters opposing SWN Energy’s plans.

The letter reads in part:

Although SWN Resources project for the Province of New Brunswick is in its pre-operational stages; the Federal and Provincial Government has failed the Crown’s fiduciary duty to consult the grassroots people about your company’s interests in oil/gas testing/exploration, and development in Atlantic Canada prior to issuing SWN Resources any leases or permits. …

It is our request that all projects, leases, and permits issued to SWN Resources by the Government comes to a halt until all Mi’kmaq-L’nu, and Wabanaki communities, as sovereign individuals are Meaningfully Consulted, and that we are able to come to an informed decision as collective individuals. …

As we assert our rights as Sovereign Mi’kmaq-L’nu Nation, and assert our rights to unite in solidarity with other Nations, we vow that we will do whatever it takes to protect our water, the blood of the earth in our traditional territory.

(Full version here.)

No response was forthcoming from the company (a request for information from HOE sent this morning has also not been responded to). But the day after James Anaya, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Aboriginal Peoples, left Canada following an eight-day visit all hell broke loose in New Brunswick.

Hundreds of Royal Canadian Mounted Police charged with enforcing a court order to end the blockade employed “dogs, pepper spray, fire hoses, tear gas, rubber bullets, and snipers,” according to Al Jazeera America. (The police have said they used bean bag projectiles, not rubber bullets.)

Video collected by protestors show police crouched in the woods and fields with sniper’s rifles trained on the protesters, which included men, women, children, and elderly members primarily of Mi’kmaq ancestry.

Protestors apparently responded to the violence and arrest of a chief by burning several police cars.

Here’s an overview of the protests that casts the New Brunswick anti-fracking demand in a wider context by referencing conflict that has long placed First Nations peoples at odds with the administration of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has embarked on what could be called an unprecedented oil & gas extraction agenda.

“Ideally, a consultation process would include a fulsome conversation on potential impacts to our constitutionally protected rights, and provide options to mitigate these dangers,” said Chief George Ginnish, Co-Chair of the Assembly of First Nations’ Chiefs in New Brunswick (AFNCNB), in a prepared statement today. “We want an immediate end to the violence by all involved, to restart the process taking into account all perspectives in NB and the inalienable rights of Aboriginals.”

“Our treaties, unlike other treaties, did not cede any land,” Pam Palmeter, Mi’kmaq attorney and Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, told CBC News. “All of those lands and resources still belong to the Mi’kmaq, and that’s what they have been fighting to protect.”

Treaty rights placing the Mi’kmaq and the Canadian government at odds are codified in the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (pdf), she added.

It is worth noting that the breaking of the blockade came the day after James Anaya, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Aboriginal Peoples, left Canada with a very negative report.

Writes Carol Linnitt at DeSmogBlog Canada:

The overarching message in Anaya’s concluding statement, released yesterday, is that over the last decade Canada has failed to make any meaningful progress on the very serious threats faced by aboriginal communities. …

“The well-being gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada has not narrowed over the last several years, treaty and aboriginal claims remain persistently unresolved, and overall there appear to be high levels of distrust among aboriginal peoples toward government at both the federal and provincial levels,” he said.

Although Canada ranks high on international indices of human development standards, he said, “amidst this wealth and prosperity, aboriginal people live in conditions akin to those in countries that rank much lower and in which poverty abounds.”

He noted dismal living conditions, poor education and high suicide rates in aboriginal communities were alarming. This is not new information, said Anaya, who added the Canadian Human Rights Commission “has consistently said that the conditions of aboriginal peoples makes for the most serious human rights problem in Canada.”

According  to Climate Connections, “There are solidarity actions planned at the Canadian Consulate in NYC at 5pm and the Canadian Embassy in DC, as well as Vancouver and Winnipeg.”

CBC Canada is reporting that protesters are starting to block other highways.

Brenda Norrell at Censored News is reporting on plans to block railway lines.

A petition aimed at Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson calls on the RCMP “to commit that they will not use violence and excessive force against peaceful First Nations protests.”

And New Brunswick is expected to further fuel anti-fracking actions around the world this Saturday as part of the Global Frackdown, writes Mark Schlosberg at Food & Water Watch, organizers of the second-annual event.

global frackdownAccording to F&WW:

The first-ever Global Frackdown in September 2012 brought together 200 community actions from over 20 countries to challenge hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—a risky technique that uses millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals to break open shale rock deep underground to release previously unrecoverable deposits of oil and gas. The oil and gas industry has spent millions of dollars on slick PR campaigns and high-profile lobbying efforts to buy the ability to extract fossil fuels from our communities with as little government oversight as possible, all while destroying our water resources and our climate.

So far, Global Frackdown events in Texas are happening in Dallas, Denton, and San Antonio.

Image on cover page for this story is by Gregg Deal Art, original photo by Ossie Michelin of APTN National News.

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